Tuesday, September 18, 2012

9.18.12 Heroes of the Day: the friends and family of Matt Marker



Names: various
Age: various
Occupation: various
Last Seen: Elk Rapids, MI
Awarded For: paying the ultimate tribute to its fallen son


I know. I should be writing about the BS in Libya regarding that moron's anti-Muslim movie creating so much chaos. Heck, I should be writing about how people need to lay off Kate Middleton just because she showed her boobies in public.

But, once in a while, I like to give back.

As some of you know, I hail from a small town in Michigan called Elk Rapids, pop. 1,700. This small village sits in between three bodies of water - Grand Traverse Bay, Torch Lake and Elk Lake - and is probably one of the biggest towns within a 30-mile radius of Traverse City, 15 miles south of town.

In Elk Rapids, you won't find any Golden Arches, just several eateries that are mostly locally-run that don't force-feed preservatives in their food. The town's only movie theatre has just one screen and uses 35 mm film and an old analog Dolby sound system. Instead of a 150,000 square-foot mega store run by billionaires, Elk Rapids just has a moderate-sized, family-owned supermarket that's been serving the community since the 1950's.

Elk Rapids has grown in terms of industry in the past decade, partly due to the ever-expanding Short's Brewery, now the third-biggest microbrewery in the state behind Kalamazoo's Bell's and Grand Rapids' Founders. Yes, the town's sole hardware - down from three a decade ago - is a chain based in Flint and there's a Subway downtown, Elk Rapids is still a quaint alternative to the big city life that so many want to escape from.

Like many small towns, Elk Rapids is a town that's not very inhabited by 20-somethings. Usually, when one graduates from Elk Rapids High School - home of the Elks - they go to the big city to escape the small-town life. But, its people will never forget its past.

One of the nicest people in the town's history was Matthew Noble Marker, the one with the blonde dreadlocks in the photo above. The son of an insurance salesman, Marker battled ADHD growing up. But, he developed a love for cars and fixing them as well, earning the nickname "The Organic Mechanic". When he graduated ERHS in 1998, he got into the business of off-road racing. He even formed his own team, the Subaroots, named for the cars he raced with: Subarus.

Like many who lived in the Elk Rapids area, I knew Matt personally. In a town that can be a mixed bag of nice people and people who you want to avoid like the plague, Matt was clearly one of the nicest people you'd ever meet. You can be the dorkiest person in town and Matt would still love you to death. I remember a bus trip where all I brought was a Walkman, and he was nice enough to lend me a pre-recorded tape of a Tool concert. But I think the fondest memory I have of him was when he forced the Elk Rapids Police Department to wash every car at Elk Rapids High School after he was suspected to have drugs in his car. He was clean, and the ERPD came with hoses and soap.

I remember the last time I saw Matt; it was Harbor Days and I was up north for the weekend. I was in the lobby at the Village Market and he bumped into me with a six pack of an indie brew. He walked out with his girlfriend and a smile. That was it.

On April of last year while racing in Washington state, Matt's Subaru crashed during a race, killing him. He died doing what he loved best: racing off-road in a car he souped up.

Sunday would have been Matt's 33rd birthday, and his friends and family decided to honor his memory with a Guinness World Record. A whopping 357 people registered to have their Subarus lined up the village in hopes of breaking the record previously held by Subaru of America, who has the current record of 339 of their cars lined up in Illinois. It could take days until Guinness will reveal if the record was broken, but if it did, Matt would be up there smiling.

Although I don't own a Subaru and I was unable to make the event, my heart does go out to the Marker family. In a world filled with stupid people, it's a shame that one of its nicest people was taken from us. I hope the record gets passed, making this one of the proudest moments in Elk Rapids history.

ERHS 2000


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